The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has gone on the offensive again by sending "prelitigation" demand letters to 19 U.S. colleges and universities, alleging that the campus networks of these secondary institutions are going to be sued for copyright infringement. This is the ninth time that the RIAA has gone after individuals through their educational affiliation.
The RIAA has sent a letter for each student or employee of that school that the RIAA is going to sue. The list of schools and the number of letters for each institution are alphabetically as follows: Drexel University (17 letters), Indiana University (23), Northern Illinois University (25), Occidental College (19), State University of New York at Morrisville (18), Texas Christian University (20), Tufts University (15), University of Alabama (14), University of California at Berkeley (19), University of Delaware (18), University of Georgia (13), University of Iowa (18), University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (20), University of Nebraska at Lincoln (13), University of New Hampshire (30), University of New Mexico (17), University of South Florida (43), University of Southern California (37) and Vanderbilt University (32).
The RIAA says that a total of 411 people are named in this round of prelitigation letters, and that the letters offer these individuals the chance to settle out of court at a “discounted rate,” even offering a special Web site where the claims can be settled online. We feel there is something wrong with this entire process. What has happened to the U.S. legal system in this matter? Where is due process and the right to hear what one is charged with? What about being presumed innocent until the entity accusing them proves they are guilty? The sample letter that reportedly will be sent by the RIAA comes across as nothing more than a heavy handed collection letter: pay up or else. http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/CSD4832.pdf
While we acknowledge that the artists and recording companies absolutely have the right to protect and enforce their copyrights we think that the RIAA’s current methods used to do so are questionable, at best. It appears that the RIAA is targeting individuals who are sharing individual songs, rather than the downloaders who are making available hundreds and thousands of copies of songs, CDs and DVDs on huge networks and reselling them. It seems that the RIAA opts to extract huge fines from casual violators rather than go after the big time copyright violators who are really the crux of the problem. And it is also interesting that the RIAA is only targeting users in the U.S. What about all of the violators in countries that do not have copyright laws or recognize intellectual property rights, and who are using the Internet to proliferate their trade in bootlegged songs, CDs and DVDs? The other fact about the RIAA is that while it crusades as the protector of the copyright interests of the artists, the damages collected go directly into the coffers of the recording companies, and not to the individual musicians.
At the heart of it all is unwillingness on the part of the recording companies to entertain any kind of revision to the copyright laws for purchased media regarding “fair use provisions.” Until there is an acknowledgment that fair use is a valid argument the RIAA and consumers are going to continue to be at odds over sharing music with each other.
Several recording artists have decided to buck the record label industry debacle and have posted or will be posting their music on their band Web sites, either free of charge or at a fee that the listening fans choose to pay. Some of the better known artists participating in this are Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Madonna.
Read more here.